Graduation is exciting and terrifying no matter what stage in your education. It can be as scary as knowing you’re starting high school next year, or waiting for your college acceptance letter, or applying for the first job of the career you’re hoping to build. Its also incredibly exciting to move on to a new phase, with new opportunities and possibilities you may never have expected!
Last year, we gave you motivational quotes from inspiring Kentuckians to encourage you on the first steps of your new journey. This year, we’re going to focus in on one guy specifically. Iron Man.
Well, maybe not the high-flying, red suit Avenger, but our own, Kentucky Iron Man, Alben Barkley.
During his concession speech after losing the 1938 US Senate election, Kentucky Governor A.B. “Happy” Chandler paid tribute to his newly reelected rival. “I always thought Senator Barkley was indestructible,” he admitted, and at the time it would have been hard to argue otherwise. Alben Barkley had just secured his third term in the US Senate after seven consecutive terms representing Kentucky in the House, and he was on his way to an appointment as Harry S. Truman’s vice president in 1949. His sole losing campaign had been a bid for Governor of Kentucky in 1928, but his habit of giving up to sixteen speeches a day and propensity for campaigning on horseback earned Barkley the nickname the “Iron Man” of politics.
In Alben Barkley: A Life in Politics, historian James K. Libbey presents the first full-length biography of the hardworking former vice president of the United States. A loyal Democrat, Barkley was able to make a name for himself shepherding Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal programs through Congress. Due to his prominent help, Barkley quickly rose from junior senator to senate majority leader, before becoming Truman’s vice president. His dedication to his party and his hard working spirit pushed Barkley to take charge of domestic affairs while his president became immersed in the Second World War, and his tireless commitment to his country carried him through the trials of public service.
Barkley’s career belied his humble origins. He was born to poor tenant farmers in Graves County, Kentucky, who instilled in him a strong work ethic at a young age. He graduated from Marvin College in 1897, but when he was unable to afford to continue school, he read for the bar on his own, passing in 1901. So, maybe you don’t know what you’re doing next, or perhaps you have a detailed road map to your goal; Mr. Barkley teaches all of us that a little hard work can go a really long way.